With dozens of NRL stars watching their every move, the pressure was on the First Nation Goannas and they delivered with a 22-16 victory over the New Zealand Maori in the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League.
The Goannas did not disappoint the parochial fans at Redfern Oval in their narrow victory over the New Zealand Maori.
This year’s Festival of Indigenous Rugby League created a strong connection between the Maori and First Nation teams. With a strong showcase of cultural celebration from both teams, they did their people proud with true integrity on and off the field.
The festival captured not only a great display of rugby league, but team camaraderie that was influenced by a deep cultural pride.
The game opened with an intense war cry from both teams, which pre-empted a fiery start to a memorable game.
The Maori made it interesting early in the match with a perfect grubber from fullback Kurtis Rowe into the in-goal for Ozzy Tuwhangai to notch a 4-0 lead.
Goannas fullback Ryan Walker flew over the line to square the ledger before Doyle Munga scored to give the visitors a six-point advantage.
Michael Purcell registered a sneaky try and Adrian Davis nailed the sideline to lock the scores at 10-10 going into the half-time break.
Dan Tanner and Kieran Vale propelled the Goannas to a 22-10 buffer before Maori centre Jayden Horo scored to set up a thrilling finish but the New Zealanders could not bridge the gap.
Goannas captain Wes Middleton told NRL.com he was filled with immense pride for his team.
“The experience was unreal. I’m very proud of my brothers. It was a bit rusty to start but it was the first time playing together,” he said.
“Times got tough but we dug deep and ended up coming away with the win in the end.”
First Nation Goannas 22 (Ryan Walker, Michael Purcell, Dan Tanner, Kieran Vale tries; Adrian David 3 goals) defeated New Zealand Maori 16 (Ozzy Tuwhangai, Carne Doyle-Manga, Jayden Horo tires; Manaia Rudolph 2 goals).
In the interstate challenge, the Newcastle Yowies recorded an entertaining 38-26 win over the Dhadhin Geai Warriors.